I had the misfortune that my harddrive at my laptop crashed, it always gives a lot of problem. The largest is if the backup is up to date. The company we have a backup client at for the laptops, but it only backup information when you are in the office and as a consultant it is not every day I’m there, so there where some data which were not backed up.
I found a external harddrive case and placed the failed disk in, and tried to use the disk at an other computer. But it was not possible because there where some bad sections on the drive.
I then tried to use some of the free/shareware tools that lets you see, what information they can restore. The you have to pay for the program if you want to restore the data.
The only program i found, which could solve some of the problem. But it seem like it was looping around bad areas. So it could not be used.
The next step in the recovery process, was to use Linux. I have a dual boot Linux/Vista workstation at home. I was impressed how easy it was to get access to the drive.
First run dd_rescue, it works like dd but it has some error handling around the use of bad sectors. See (http://www.garloff.de/kurt/linux/ddrescue/ ) It was easy to install with apt-get at Ubuntu, and it should be easy with other systems.
The process of running dd_rescue took for ever. The 38G drive was processed in around 20 hours, and some of the processing was really slow.
The only commands that I had to perform was.
sudo apt-get install ntfsprogs ntfs-3g
ddrescue /dev/sdf2 hardrive.img
Press Ctrl-C to interrupt
rescued: 39933 MB, errsize: 24576 B, current rate: 85 B/s
ipos: 31444 MB, errors: 49, average rate: 670 kB/s
opos: 31444 MB
After running dd_rescue it was just to use mount the drive image as a loop back drive. Then there was access to all the information.
I suspects that it could be possible to use dd to write the image to a new drive an then use the computer again. But I got a re-installation of the computer to be safe. To copy the files I instead used samba to share drive image and then copied the files on the network.
sudo mkdir /media/windisk
sudo mount -o loop hardrive.img /media/windisk/ -o umask=000
And to make sure that Dell was not going to use the data for something else, I wrote a lot of garbage to it with shred.
shred -vfz -n 3 /dev/sdf2
It was the easiest repair i have performed on my computer so far. So there are no need to buy one of the expensive 50$+ restore drives, went it is possible to use a free version of Linux and other tools. I could probably have used the Ubuntu live cd for the backup.